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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Ike No Taiga: Japanese artist and a glimpse into the history of Japan

Ike No Taiga: Japanese artist and a glimpse into the history of Japan

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Japanese art is very distinctive and contrasts greatly with classical European art and clearly religious differences, environmental factors, distance, limited social interaction between both poles and other important factors is behind this. Ike No Taiga exemplifies the vast difference in thinking and clearly China was the central of gravity for a major period in the history of Japan.

This article is merely highlighting Ike No Taiga and focusing on the underbelly of culture in Japan and how his life provides glimpses of the reality of Japan in the 18th century. After all, the land of the rising sun was clearly influenced by ideas emanating out of China. Therefore, while thinking was influenced before the Nara period in the 8th century it is clear that the Nara period highlights the interaction of both nations.

It is often claimed that the Edo period is based on isolation but the life of Ike No Taiga (1723-1776) challenges this oversimplification.  The Edo period witnessed the Buddhist inquisition against Christianity whereby all Christians were killed in this period in Japan but outside cultural influence still entered this country.

Therefore, while religious edicts were a reality the isolation of Japan is a different matter because thought patterns emanating from China were still potent.  Therefore, the life of Ike No Taiga is fascinating because of many factors.

Ike No Taiga was born into a relatively poor family and his father died when he was very young.  However, despite this his mother somehow managed to get her son educated by some of the finest minds in Japan in this period.

This in itself shows you that the heavy handed stratification of society was not completely rigid and Ike No Taiga was accepted because he was a man of letters and an artist who provides glimpses of Japan in this period. 

Ike No Taiga was taught classical Japanese and Chinese disciplines during his childhood and the Mampuku-ji Zen temple would remain embedded within his soul. Therefore, irrespective of Japan’s isolation or not; the classical world of China was still potent within the mindset of Japanese high culture and religious thinking from Mampuku-ji Zen temple shaped and influenced Ike No Taiga greatly.

At the tender age of 14 Ike No Taiga had become a professional artist and a calligrapher of high esteem.  However, the encounter he had with Yanagisawa Kien would impact on him greatly. 

Through Yanagisawa Kien the world of bunjin was introduced to him and this world would shape the life of Ike No Taiga.  Yanagisawa Kien was a major artistic figure and social thinker and bunjin was potent within high circles in this period of Japanese history.

Anna Beerens comments that “In 8th-century Japan a few hundred individuals, mostly living in the main towns, such as Kyoto, Osaka and Edo, are considered literati (bunjin). In studying this group as an intellectual and social phenomenon one studies an important part of the history of 18th-century Japanese culture and city life. Also, their literati activities and attitudes are an interesting example of acculturation. For whatever our literati may be, they certainly are a collection of consciously sinophile people, writing Chinese, painting in a variety of Chinese styles, drinking their tea the Chinese way, and otherwise assimilating and disseminating Chinese influences, at the same time changing this heritage in all sorts of subtle ways.”

Ike No Taiga, Kan Tenju and Ko Fuyo were deeply influenced by Yanagisawa Kien and the bunjin world appealed greatly because of the high culture that it provided. However, the social reality of Ike No Taiga meant that the avoidance of commercialism was not possible because if he did not ply his trade then he had no alternative source of income.

Another aspect of bunjin thinking was to set off on important journeys in order to understand the world and to commune with nature.  Also, the journeys would expand the cultural awareness of the individual and by connecting with nature this would then trigger greater artistic imagination. 

Bunjin concepts did enable Ike No Taiga to expand his knowledge and by travelling he learnt about Rangaku (Dutch learning) and Noro Genjo will have provided another important worldview but fused with Japanese cultural influences.

Again, the Edo period and isolationism did not prevent scholars from studying outside concepts.  Therefore, the thought patterns of high culture in both China and the Netherlands would impact on Ike No Taiga.

Throughout much of the life of Ike No Taiga he would travel and connect with nature by mountain climbing and witnessing culture during his travels.  He often was accompanied by fellow bunjin colleagues and collaboration on art projects took place.  Therefore, the philosophy of bunjin reached deep into his soul.

At all times Ike No Taiga was searching and in time he would also become influenced by Hakuin Ekaku.  Therefore, the personal style of Hakuin Ekaku would add to the vast knowledge of Ike No Taiga and he would work with Hakuin’s disciples.

The Japanese government classified some of Ike No Taiga’s work to be National Treasures and this would have pleased him greatly because the man of letters was fully transformed by bunjin thought patterns.

Ike No Taiga may have resided in so-called isolationist Japan but this did not stop him from benefitting from the high culture of China and the Netherlands.  Also, his humble background and stratification in Japan did not hinder him and aspects of the life of Ike No Taiga should be studied in order to deconstruct some myths about Japan in the Edo period.

http://www.1st-art-gallery.com/Ike-No-Taiga/Ike-No-Taiga-oil-paintings.html 

http://moderntokyotimes.com (please visit)

 
 
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Posted by on June 30, 2011 in Japan

 

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Ando Hiroshige: a glimpse of Japan and duality! Part 1

Ando Hiroshige: a glimpse of Japan and duality!  Part 1  

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Ando Hiroshige is deemed to be one of the finest artists to bless the country of Japan and his art influenced famous artists like Van Gogh.  Hiroshige leaves a lasting impression on the imagination and Katsushika Hokusai clearly influenced Hiroshige and was an inspirational figure even if from afar.

Collectively Hiroshige and Hokusai helped to generate great interest in Japanese art albeit if this influence grew after their respective deaths. Of course, many other famous artists have been born in Japan and the rich nature of Japanese art is clear for all to see.

Time, space, nature, color schemes and symbolism fuses together just like Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Shintoism fused aspects of Japanese culture in the past alongside the influences of China. However, amidst the serenity you have the backdrop of shunga which was erotic and explicitly sexual and this art form teaches much about the psyche and sexual reality of Japan. 

Within the visions of serenity, sublime nature and stunning landscapes you have multi-dimensional realities which may clash in other cultures, irrespective if “Eastern” or “Western” thought patterns; however, open sexuality and conservatism within the same “inner-self” is based on thought patterns that are difficult to grasp from a non-Japanese point of view.

Therefore, in the last years of Hiroshige’s life he entered into the spiritual plain of Buddhism and the reality of depicting strong sexual images would not appear to be contradictory nor would it be viewed to be openly sexual within the cultural norm of Japan.

This article is not based on giving a deep background of Hiroshige because the images on show express themselves without words.  Therefore, the main theme is based on the duality of Hiroshige and this applies to sublime landscapes and sexual images and the fact that he was born a samurai but died a Buddhism monk. 

This contradictory factor is often missed by outsiders but within the cultural norms of Japan it is very different and clearly understandable.

Therefore, the Fifty-three Stages of the Tokaido Road, the Eight Views of Lake Biwa, and the Hundred Views of Edo remain firmly entrenched when thinking about the genius of Hiroshige. However, when you delve deeper into other aspects of Hiroshige’s work then just like Hokusai you can envisage the sexual nature and cultural norms of Japan.

http://www.hiroshige.org.uk/hiroshige/main/main.htm 

http://library.thinkquest.org/trio/TTQ05064/Templates/hiroshige.htm

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 

This article is dedicated to Chikako, Kimiko, Toshiko, and Yoshihiro, who reside in Ikebukuro or have a business in Ikebukuro.  Over the years our interaction and talks about important issues opened up different aspects of Japanese culture in the environment of Tokyo.  

In my article I state that “This contradictory factor is often missed by outsiders but within the cultural norms of Japan it is very different and clearly understandable.”

The above quote is based on their thinking and while you can read books and study the truth is that open cultural interaction makes you understand much more deeply.

Thank you!

Lee Jay

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2011 in Japan

 

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Osaka fashion: Namba and its independent spirit

Osaka fashion: Namba and its independent spirit

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The magic of the Kansai region is the huge diversity which can be found throughout this part of Japan.  This applies to the high octane nature of Osaka with huge skyscrapers, buzzing fashion and a city which is a powerhouse in its own right.  Alternatively, you have the high culture of Nara within a short distance of time and for visitors to Kansai or locals who like to travel; then you are clearly spoilt for choice.

Osaka is full of life and in Namba you can feel the vibrancy of Osaka culture and this applies to fashion, entertainment and manzai. I often find aspects of Tokyo life easy because the comfort zone reality applies but in Namba you can feel a real “edge” and “vibrancy” which is hard to find in Tokyo.

Namba also ticks for 24 hours and the night time aspect of Namba applies to the sexual nature of the Dotonbori area and other forms of entertainment where people can unwind and forget about the seriousness of life.

During the day Namba is awash with different types of activities and the fashion scene is extremely vibrant. Added to this is manzai which is a unique comedy style and the famous Yoshimotokougyo School is located in this part of Osaka.  Therefore, you will often see many young students practicing outside in one part of Namba and it is refreshing to see the younger generation so happy and not worrying about what others think.

Fashion is also buzzing and Namba ladies have their own distinct fashion and style. This also applies to the different thought pattern because the confidence factor and more outgoing style seems more natural.  Often in Tokyo, you can feel a more timid way of life outside certain notorious areas but Osaka culture on the whole is more open and energetic.

In Namba you have trendy and fashionable areas like Amerikamura and Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade.  Also, electronic areas and manga can be found and Nipponbashi Den Den Town is popular.  Meanwhile, the Dotonbori district is famous for entertainment and the innocence and vibrancy of manzai can be felt alongside trendy fashion areas and the seedier nature of nighttime.

This part of Osaka is also blessed with a nice waterway system and it is a nice place to relax and sit out and you will see many tourist boats on busy days.  This also latches on to the genuine buzz of Namba. Therefore, even if you are by yourself you feel that you belong because of the ambient atmosphere.

Fashion in the Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade and adjacent area surrounding this shopping complex is awash with fashion stores and you have a huge choice.  Also, true to the nature of Namba, it is also a fusion of trendy boutiques with an independent spirit alongside well-known chain retail stores.

Fashion is really fascinating in Namba because of the options which are available.  This applies to the high fashion of expensive department stores and influential brands alongside trendy boutiques which have a more independent feel.  The combination compliments each other and for this reason you will see many different styles and the more you venture, then the more you will see the alternative side of fashion in Namba.  

In the area called Amerikamura you have a reported 3,000 shops to pick from and the choice is really diverse and clearly you need time out to wander and find stores which have that special feel which each individual person is looking for.  The youthful nature and buzz of this part of Osaka can be felt and domestic boutiques like Urban Research, Ships, Anna Sui, Stussy, and countless others, can be found in this vibrant and fashionable area.

Other places to visit in Namba are Namba Parks, National Bunraku Theater, Hozenji Yokocho Alley, Kuromon Ichiba Market (Emmeiji Market) and Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum. Also, for pure energy then the Dotonbori area is a must and it is nice to relax along the river and this applies to shopping, entertainment and many food outlets.

At night Dotonbori changes because the area is awash with stunning ladies and a different Namba comes into being during the night time and early hours of the morning.

Overall, Namba is a must place to visit in Osaka because of fantastic fashion and the natural raw energy which can be felt. 

Osaka certainly is not in the shadow of any other major city in the world because it is a huge and highly developed city.  Osaka is extremely vibrant and in Namba you will feel the raw energy and atmosphere of a place which is alive at all times during the day.

 

http://www.infomapjapan.com/sight_Namba.phtml  (Info about Namba)

http://www.japaneselifestyle.com.au/travel/osaka_namba.htm

http://www.osaka-info.jp/en/search/detail/shopping_5160.html (Namba Walk info)

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

photo from http://www.flickr.com  

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2011 in Japan

 

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Katsushika Hokusai and Nobuyoshi Araki: Who is the more erotic? Part 3 of Hokusai

Katsushika Hokusai and Nobuyoshi Araki: Who is the more erotic?  Part 3 of Hokusai

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Katsushika Hokusai was born in 1760 and Nobuyoshi Araki was born in 1940 and today Araki still continues to take photo images. Hokusai is famously known throughout the world for The Great Wave off Kanagawa and his Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji. However, Araki is known for his sexual images and the unique erotic styles that he often takes but Araki is much more diverse than this because his work involves many different forms of photography.

Hokusai and Araki were born in different Japan’s but sexual artistic flair can be witnessed by both individuals because sexual images and erotic art forms belong to aspects of their respective work. 

Both individuals were born in Tokyo and while Hokusai is famous for non-erotic forms of art to most lay people the same can’t be said about Araki because Tokyo Lucky Hole is either extremely erotic or pornographic depending on your viewpoint. 

Irrespective if we use the word “erotic” or “pornographic” because people have different sensibilities the fact remains that Araki is extremely gifted and creative.  Like all photographers the artist will either appeal or not appeal. However, Araki is clearly showing a sexual and seedy side of Tokyo which not only exists but is quite prevalent in many main areas in modern day Tokyo.

Their different art forms can’t be compared because both were born in very different societies and technology, thought patterns, environmental differences and countless other factors, means that it is unfair to compare and counterproductive.

However, it is abundantly clear that the “erotic” side of aspects of their work is a uniting factor and both are famous sons of Tokyo. Yet, in the image of most art lovers both clearly have a distinctive connotation and mystery and while the “erotic” and seedy side of Tokyo creates image of Araki in the mind; it is clear that for most people Hokusai is deemed to be “a classical artist” and one of the most famous artists that graced the soil of Japan. 

Indeed the word “artist” and “contemporary artist” is also subjective because while Hokusai will smoothly fit into the word “artist” you will have different opinions towards Araki.  This applies to stating that Araki is a “contemporary artist” but for conservative individuals Araki will be tainted by the word “pornography.” Also, the vagueness of “contemporary artist” means that it is difficult to define in the absolute sense because different thought patterns view the world differently.  

The first time I ever saw work by Araki was in Manchester, England, when I viewed Tokyo Lucky Hole when I was around 19 years old.  My first impression, and coming from a non-artist background at the time, was “wow” and these ladies look “so hot” therefore for myself I viewed this to be pornographic when I was young but I did find it in the art section.

However, the more you view aspects of Araki’s work then it does become abundantly clear that in his field he is extremely talented and not everything is what it seems. 

In my article called “Nobuyoshi Araki shows the cultural side of Tokyo in the flesh” I state that Araki “…goes much further because this famous photographer opens up a Tokyo which is often neglected or not imagined.  He also fuses his photography with the landscape of Tokyo amidst naked bodies or ladies being tied up and his imagery is clearly powerful.”

“Therefore, Nobuyoshi Araki is also focusing on the emptiness of entertainment districts and the sex industry; albeit from an erotic human form and the energy and visual nature of his photography expresses many emotions.”

“Like any artist; people will see different things within his photography and while some people will gain from his works others may reject him on various grounds.  However, if you look deeper into his work then Nobuyoshi Araki is providing a real glimpse into a Tokyo which exists and not only this, he does this by creating a rare energy within simplistic and complex themes.”

Hokusai is in reverse because my first contact with the work of Hokusai was when I viewed The Great Wave off Kanagawa and Fuji in Clear Weather and this was followed by the Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. Immediately I liked Hokusai because the sheer power of The Great Wave off Kanagawa was striking.  I therefore believed that Hokusai was similar to John Constable (a classical artist from England who was born in 1776) who painted The Hay Wain and Dedham Vale and many other classic paintings.

Yet, many years later I viewed the The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife by Hokusai and other images from Kinoe No Komatsu which is a collection of shunga.  I was shocked because I never understood this side of Hokusai and The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife is not only erotic but it mind boggling because of the perverse nature of what is happening.  

In my article called “Katsushika Hokusai and erotic art: The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife (Part 2 of Hokusai)” I comment that “The image shows a lady who was deemed to be a shell diver (ama) with her legs wide apart while the fully grown octopus performs cunnilingus.  She is fully naked and her breasts and hairy pussy are clearly visible and her body is clearly welcoming both the fully grown octopus and the small and younger octopus.”

“The eyes of the fully grown octopus are really striking because while performing cunnilingus on the lady it is clear that the eyes are fully focused on her face and pleasure and satisfaction belong to both.”

“It is suggested that the small octopus may be the son and if so then this makes the sexual experience even more erotic to some or alternatively “on the edge” for others.  Either way, only Hokusai really knows the role of the small octopus but it is clear that the lady is enjoying the power of the fully grown octopus and the magical touch of the younger octopus which is fondling her nipple and mouth.”

“Her face depicts complete sexual bliss and in the image it appears that nature and humans are one and the same.  Yes, visually different; however, enjoying the sexual experience together.”                                                                                  

“The image which is graphic is also based on consent, pleasure, joy, and bliss.”

Other images by Hokusai are also extremely sexual and graphic between people having sex and maybe just like Araki showing the seedy side of modern Tokyo it could be said that Hokusai was also doing the same.  However, the image where a woman is happily spreading her pussy so that she can feel the pleasure of an octopus and clearly feeling orgasmic; then for myself this image is not only mind boggling it is mysterious, perverse, erotic and showing images of pleasure all into one image. 

The scholar Danielle Talerico desires to put this image into the context of the Princess Tamatori story which was well-known in the Edo period. However, Hokusai may have played on this in order to create something else because in the Princess Tamatori story she dies from her wounds.  However, in Hokusai’s work it is clear that sexual pleasure and mutual gratification is taking place and the image does not show fear.

This is getting away from the point of Hokusai and Araki and the question of who is the more erotic.  Of course, people will have different opinions and again time, environment and other factors will make the judgment difficult.

Also, because of the very nature of art and different thought patterns then some may deem Hokusai to be “a master artist” or “a perverted artist” when it came to shunga. The same applies to Araki because to some people his work is “erotic art” but to others it is “pornography” and not artistic. Also, can aspects of pornography be deemed to be artistic?

This minefield does not belong to this article and despite all the sexual images by Araki I believe that Hokusai’s work was more erotic and this applies to many images from his Kinoe No Komatsu collection.  More to the point, the image of The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife is in a different dimension to anything that Araki created.

Obviously both individuals have created their work within themselves and their respective work is not based on competition with anyone.  However, the point is that while Hokusai remains within the fold of “classical artist” it is clear that Araki “is on the edge” and either he is well liked or disregarded. 

Yet, if Araki is disregarded based on his subject matter then clearly the same does not apply to Hokusai.  Both individual have opened up a door to “a hidden Japan” which is “not so hidden” for people who reside in major cities like Tokyo and Osaka. 

However, when it comes to erotic images then The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife by Hokusai takes some beating and the power of this image remains today.

 

http://www.asia.si.edu/exhibitions/online/hokusai/launch.htm   (Hokusai)

http://www.hokusai-kan.com/treasure01.htm  (Hokusai)

http://moderntokyotimes.com/2011/05/31/katsushika-hokusai-japanese-artist-with-a-rich-legacy-part-one/  

http://moderntokyotimes.com/2011/06/03/katsushika-hokusai-and-erotic-art-the-dream-of-the-fisherman%e2%80%99s-wife-part-2-of-hokusai/

http://moderntokyotimes.com/2011/04/02/nobuyoshi-araki-shows-the-cultural-side-of-tokyo-in-the-flesh/

http://fantomatik75.blogspot.com/2010/02/les-cordes-nobuyashi-araki.html (images taken from this website when applies to Araki but photos remain within the search engine but problems with modern website)

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2011 in Japan

 

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Tokyo: Chinzan-so garden and exquisite restaurants

Tokyo: Chinzan-so garden and exquisite restaurants  

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Chinzan-so Garden is not only visually stunning but the unique surroundings and history of this garden means that it is not only a highly desirable tourist attraction, but it is a fantastic place to enjoy the splendid restaurants and to stay at a lovely hotel in this lovely part of Tokyo.

The history of Chinzan-so is fascinating because you have many historic remains and you feel like you are entering a different world.  This applies to the pre-Meiji period and the Meiji period when Japan developed rapidly. However, in Chinzan-so this is where history makers enjoyed the opulent wealth and natural beauty of this exquisite garden. Therefore, it is clear that old Japan survived in Tokyo within highly cultural places like Chinzan-so.

The well-known statesman in the early Meiji period, Prince Aritomo Yamagata, built his splendid mansion and the name Chinzan-so means “House of Camellia.” Obviously the name refers to the many types of camellia in this exquisite and historical garden.

The prestige of Prince Aritomo Yamagata and his importance and how Chinzan-so is viewed can be seen by the fact that the Emperor Meiji held many important meetings, in order to plan the future with dignitaries who held important seats of power.  Therefore, it is abundantly clear that the stunning environment, remote settings where seclusion could be found from prying eyes and the cultural aspect of Chinzan-so meant that it was an ideal setting.

Much of the historical legacy today which can be viewed must be credited to Baron Heitaro Fujita because he utilized the stunning grounds and topography.  This applies to adding important historical monuments and many of these came from Kyoto and Toba. However, the stunning pagoda which is very beautiful was relocated from Hiroshima.

Throughout your visit to Chinzan-so garden you will see many Taoist images and being Japan you will also see many Buddhist images because religious and philosophical fusions go hand in hand along with Shintoism.  These images and the numerous stone lanterns add to the charm and mystery of Chinzan-so.  The settings of this garden with the quaint pond, stunning pagoda, waterfall, lanterns, and images of Taoism and Buddhism, all adds to the exquisite nature of this lovely garden.

You also have a sacred 500 year old tree and Chinzan-so is clearly not just a garden because it is a place full of history and splendor.

Chinzan-so is also a great place to enjoy scrumptious food and enjoy the lovely surroundings.  “Kinsui” is a traditional restaurant and is located in a delightful area and the kaiseki cuisine is sure to please alongside other genuine and delicious Japanese dishes.  Also, you have a casual dining area located in “Kinsui” called “Hanaguruma” and this restaurant is also a great place to eat and relax.

“Mokushundo” is another fabulous place to eat fondue, traditional box lunches and barbecue which is cooked in a traditional Japanese style.  “Mokushundo” is five dining rooms which are detached and the tranquil and blissful garden setting means that you can enjoy the best of both worlds.

“Chuu-an” restaurant is also set in amazing surroundings and the backdrop of the pond amidst the stunning view means that luxury and the scrumptious Edomae sushi is a rare treasure.  Indeed, the food quality on offer is extremely delicious and this is matched by stunning beauty and you certainly feel like you have entered another world.

If you really like Japanese soba then you will clearly enjoy “Mucha-an” restaurant. This applies to the unique “Kaiseki” taste with scrumptious soba noodles.  Again, your walk to this restaurant is so pleasing and for Japanese soba noodle lovers then it is a most enjoyable place to eat.

Restaurant “Camellia” is famous for its French cuisine and for over 50 years this top notch restaurant continues to win acclaim.  The view is majestic and more spacious and if you are a connoisseur of the best of French cuisine then restaurant “Camellia” is the right place to visit and to enjoy sublime food.

“Café Foresta” is very relaxing and also the setting is very spacious and if you are lucky to sit by the window then you can see the stunning pagoda.  This café provides delicious cakes, sandwiches and you have a nice choice of coffee and tea.  It is a lovely place to relax and to enjoy your stay in Chinzan-so and adds to the variety of choice.

http://www.chinzanso.com/english/restaurant.html  

http://www.chinzanso.com/english/

http://moderntokyotimes.com (please visit)

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Posted by on June 23, 2011 in Japan

 

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Kichijoji in Tokyo: great for fashion, relaxing and a lovely park

Kichijoji in Tokyo: great for fashion, relaxing and a lovely park

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Kichijoji is a very desirable place to reside in Tokyo and just like Jiyugaoka, Shimo-Kitazawa and Nakano each place attracts many people because of the trendy feel to each area.  Fashion is more independent and you have smaller companies to search out and many places to relax for coffee, wine or a nice meal. 

These places are outside of the main central Tokyo hub and the more famous places like Ebisu, Ginza, Ikebukuro, Harajuku, Omotesando, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ueno and other parts of Tokyo may hog the limelight; however, Kichijoji, Jiyugaoka, Nakano, and Shimo-Kitazawa have their own special feel and they add to the power of Tokyo which is awash with fashionable places to visit.

Therefore, when you visit places like Kichijoji and Shimo-Kitazawa you can walk around many shopping streets and alleyways and often you will find somewhere new which attracts your eye. 

The boutiques and other shopping stores have a more independent feel and this attracts the younger generation and this is the beauty of places like Kichijoji. After all, it is nice to have exquisite fashion, fancy restaurants, coffee shops and a lovely park to relax in.

Also, the pace of life is more soothing than the high octane nature of Shinjuku and other main areas in Tokyo which are all fantastic places to visit but in Kichijoji you can find that extra breathing space within minutes of leaving the main area.  Therefore, the younger generation and all generations can make the most of this ambient part of Tokyo and Kichijoji is a very desirable place to move to and relocate if you reside in Tokyo.  

Inokashira Koen (park) adds to the quaint alleyways and independent stores which sell unique products and trendy clothing.  This park is a lovely place to visit and unwind from the stresses of life and it adds to your visit to Kichijoji. 

Another appealing nature of this part of Tokyo is live house, blues bars, jazz kissa (jazz coffee shops) and many a young band began in this environment.  Therefore, the musical nature of Kichijoji appeals to the younger generation and avid music fan.

Therefore, if you want to experience another part of Tokyo then Kichijoji is a great place to visit and relax and the stunning park means that you can have a most enjoyable day.

All in all, Kichijoji is great for fashion because of department stores and more importantly, elegant and independent boutiques can be found in abundance.  The area is very busy in the central location but the streets and alleyways enable you to relax. Therefore, the environment changes quickly and the park and architecture comes together and expands the richness of this upmarket and trendy part of Tokyo.

The music scene is also vibrant and you can feel the energy of the next generation and this aspect means that it is a magnet for the younger generation.

Kichijoji is a lovely part of Tokyo!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/99514369@N00/sets/72057594127875514/ 

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

http://flickr.com 

 

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2011 in Japan

 

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Sada Abe: an image of reality? From Mecca, Srebrenica, Malcolm X and Tibet

Sada Abe: an image of reality?  From Mecca, Srebrenica, Malcolm X and Tibet

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

If you know nothing about Sada Abe then this image will seem to be just another typical photo where you see a young lady smiling.  The young lady is in fact Sada Abe and clearly the men in the photo look like people in power.  However, for people who know nothing about Sada Abe then can you imagine the reality of why people seem so happy and cheerful?

Maybe by asking the question then some people will be thinking that something is amiss because why ask if the photo is innocent?  This is the problem because by itself it is just a photo and like life many people see what they desire to see.

The façade on the outside is just a mirage because within all humans you have mystery, a passion that may or may not burn and a truth which is never spoken or is spoken in order to hide another reality.

Political propagandists will certainly feel at home by the photo which is shown where you see a young lady smiling with men.  What could be more innocent?  A blissful public unaware of the real reality or an opposing thought pattern which is deemed to be very dangerous.

How many communists were slaughtered in Indonesia?  It is hard to count after more than a million, isn’t it?  Therefore, was Vietnam “a mirage” for the real threat in Indonesia? 

This may be veering off topic but the same can be said of Srebrenica. This applies to images of innocent Muslims being killed by Christian Serbs but what about the 3,500 innocent Christian Serbs who were slaughtered around Srebrenica?

Also, what about past history in this part of the Balkans because Christian Serbs had been enslaved and suffered dhimmitude and eldest sons were taken and converted to Islam.  Does this mean nothing?

The same applies to Muslim SS units which were loyal to Hitler in World War Two and in more recent times thousands of international Islamic jihadists bypassed the Western media in the 1990s and beheaded at random; should all this be ignored? 

Can we view reality through images and how do you judge history? 

A photo, an image, an ideology, all can be played and manipulated and in this image we have to remember the atrocities in China and Korea by imperial Japanese forces.  After all, something sinister is hiding behind the image of Sada Abe.

Sada Abe was born in 1905 and the photo was taken in 1936 and this was a period of heightened political divisions in Japan.  Nationalism and socialism were both powerful and militarists would sway the course of Japanese history in this period.

However, the life of Sada Abe appears to be more embedded within aspects of Japanese culture.  After all, the image of conservative Japan and high morals is a distortion just like it is a distortion in other cultures but of course not all distortions are carried out to the same degree.

After all, in this period Arab Muslims in Mecca and Medina could still buy their African female concubines and do how they pleased because slavery was still going strong in this part of the world. 

Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam also missed the connection and left one faith and joined another.  However, slavery was still a reality in the land of Mecca and Medina throughout the 1950s. Therefore, you have a man who declared that he was “throwing of his slave master” but who then converted to a faith which sanctions slavery.

Also, during his conversion slavery was part and parcel of society in Saudi Arabia and of course the majority of slaves will have been African.

Similarly, Tibetan priests were no moral and innocent guardians of virtue in this period and many a child was sexually abused.  Indeed, the image of peaceful Buddhism in Tibet is just a façade because until 1913 the punishment system was barbaric.

Under the Sakya school which was embedded in the Tibetan legal code it was legal to punish by gouging out of eyes, cross amputation and other gruesome punishments.  Indeed, two years before the photo of Sada Abe a Tibetan official called Lungshar had his eyes gouged out by “untouchables” in utopian Tibet in 1934 and slavery under the feudal system was common in Old Tibet.

All this may seem like a far cry from the topic but the photo represents a façade which exists under every utopian or conservative culture.  Therefore, the image of Sada Abe does tell us much about the reality of propaganda and turning to Japan itself; then the image shows us something more sinister and the same applies to cultural norms of the day.

Sada Abe, the smiling young lady who is joking and at ease, had just been arrested for the brutal murder of her lover, Kichizo Ishida.  Not only had she murdered Kichizo Ishida but she also mutilated his body and carried with her his penis and testicles which she had chopped off.

If this is not bad enough it is also stated that after killing him and mutilating his body she would also behave sexually to the dismembered penis.  This applies to entering the penis of Kichizo Ishida into her mouth and trying to enter it into her body and using it like a sexual toy to pleasure herself. 

However, in her worldview she was claiming that she killed out of love and clearly she caught the imagination of Japan.

In the photo it is clear that she was viewed somewhat exotically and a lady of mystery and astonishingly she was only given 6 years for this brutal murder.  Not that she served the six years because she was released early.

Therefore, not only does the image by itself distort the most ghastly of deeds but the most shocking aspect of the case may not even belong to the murder?

I am not implying that this gruesome murder wasn’t brutal and the sexual acts that she performed on herself weren’t on the borders of insanity. However, the real shock may belong to two other revealing factors depending on your thinking.

Firstly, Sada’s sister, Teruko, had several lovers therefore her father punished her in not such an unusual way within Japan during this period.  Yes, he punished his daughter by sending her to a brothel and this also did not hinder her marriage after shortly leaving the brothel when her father reclaimed her.

Yet, this factor tells us much about aspects of Japanese culture because it would seem rather extreme in most cultures to send your daughter to a brothel.  However, it was not uncommon and clearly men often married ladies who were punished like this.

The second telling factor is that artists, philosophers, novelists, and the film industry have turned everything upside down and given her a mysterious billing.  Also, a book was written about her and then she decided on her own memoirs.

Therefore, within 11 years of this brutal murder and of playing with a chopped off penis in her mouth she emerges to be widely respected. In 1947 The Erotic Confessions of Abe Sada sold over 100,000 copies and became a best-seller.

Given this, the photo tells us nothing by itself and if we view history then how many distortions and unrealities do you have in this world?  Or is it that unreality and reality belong together because each individual will see things differently based on culture, time, history, individualism, environment, political beliefs, religion, personal factors, and so forth?

However, while the photo may distort things the same can’t be said for what happened to Sada’s sister, Teruko.  Maybe the real story is not Sada Abe but how punishments were handed out in Japan in this period and this applies to government and family punishments.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sada_Abe

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 

 

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Hatsune Miku is the perfect girlfriend! Reality or unreality?

Hatsune Miku is the perfect girlfriend!  Reality or unreality?

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

 

In Japan it is sometimes difficult to understand the concept of life and death in a nation where more than 30,000 people kill themselves a year.  Yes, despite the brutality of the March 11 earthquake which unleashed the tsunami and which swept away so many people; the sad reality is that more people will kill themselves this year in Japan than the devastating tsunami. 

Alongside this brutal reality is hikikomori which is a real social problem because many people want to hide away from the outside world.  Hikikomori and suicide may be small when we think about the population of Japan and both problems can be overly dramatized but something is going wrong?

After all, 300,000 plus people killing themselves every ten years is serious and the same applies to people who desire to withdraw from society.  Therefore, if you understand aspects of Japanese culture and this also applies to sexless couples, otaku, huge social pressure because of long working hours then Hatsune Miku does make sense.

Of course many females also commit suicide and get hikikomori but males outnumber females and around 70% of all suicides are done by men.  It is even suggested that the number of suicides is higher because definitions vary but the government acknowledges that over 30,000 people kill themselves every year.

One interesting fact is that while people with hikikomori withdraw themselves from society they still interact but through the internet.  Indeed, for many people with hikikomori it is clear that they enjoy anime, comics, video games and the internet.

Often in Tokyo you will see young men and ladies with small teddies attached and sometimes people who are much older.  Therefore, immaturity, the power of anime, high technology, hikikomori, high percentage of sexless couples, the stresses of conformity, strong social pressures, otaku, cosplay, maid cafes, Hello Kitty, hentai anime, and other areas of society, is clearly catering for Hatsune Miku to become the perfect girlfriend.

This does not imply that anime is negative because it certainly isn’t and I really like Japanese anime and this applies to Ghost In The Shell and many other high quality anime which is made in Japan.

However, for a minority of people the world of reality and unreality is difficult to define and this is why Hatsune Miku is so popular.  Therefore, when you think about all the inner-social problems in Japan and how society and younger men appear to becoming more feminine then a perfect girlfriend which isn’t human is appealing and understandable.

It must be stated that in Japan it is factual that young ladies are desired and the pop culture caters for teenage girls dressing sexily and so forth. Therefore, aspects of anime and manga do have sexual overtures and hentai manga is big business in Japan.

Hatsune Miku unlike any other figure in the history of anime crosses the world of reality and unreality.  Also, Hatsune Miku is extremely cute and her persona changes for the individual who adores her. 

Therefore, the digital avatar is creating a sensation and the popularity of Hatsune Miku is growing.  The lovely eyes and pony tails appeal and unlike a real girlfriend you have no arguments or wasted time and given the social pressures in Japan then this in itself is a winner.

The fan base of Hatsune Miku runs into the millions and major companies like Toyota want to join the bandwagon because of the marketability of “adorable Miku.”

Given my reality I might join the club!

http://moderntokyotimes.com (please visit)

 

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2011 in Japan

 

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Tokyo: Anti-Anime and Manga Bill to be enforced on July 1st

Tokyo: Anti-Anime and Manga Bill to be enforced on July 1st

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Reality or unreality? Child or Adult?

Shintaro Ishihara, the Governor of Tokyo, remains adamant that Bill 156 is a step in the right direction in stemming the tide of extreme sexual depictions of minors in Tokyo.  Therefore, the anti-Anime and anti-Manga Bill will come into complete effect on July 1st but elements began prior to this date.

Many artists, individuals, organizations and people in Tokyo are against the new measures  because  they claim that it is a threat to civil liberties and that it will hinder a vibrant sector.  However, others support Shintaro Ishihara on the grounds of protecting minors and because of other important factors.

The ordinance which was passed by the local government in Tokyo claims that regulations are needed in order to safeguard minors.  This applies to animation scenes which depict rape, incest, child marriage and the sexual abuse of minors.

However, if the ordinance only includes Tokyo then it seems rather strange because Saitama Prefecture is only 11 minutes away by train from Ikebukuro and within around 18 to 19 minutes you are in Kanagawa from Shinjuku.  Similarly, Chiba is not so far away from Ueno therefore if the entire region is not included it appears rather limited and open to be manipulated.

Also, what if you buy animation which depicts rape, incest, and the abuse of minors, from an online company based in another part of Japan?  Will this also become illegal?  If so, then what measures can prevent packages from containing the newly banned material and if individuals download their new purchase online then are they breaking the law? .

Before people point the finger at Japan it should be stated that child marriage of minors aged from 8 or 9 years of age to very old men in Saudi Arabia is allowed (also applies to other nations). Therefore, will outside pressure be put on nations which implement Islamic Sharia law in countries like Saudi Arabia and Yemen which allow child marriage based on this legal system? 

Which is worse?  Child marriage of children to very old men in nations like Saudi Arabia or animation which is not based on reality? 

Shintaro Ishihara can’t please everyone because it is a very emotional topic in certain circles. However it is clear that explicit animation and manga generates a lot of capital and the creativity it unleashes also crosses over into other areas.

Already restrictions have been put on six titles and the new ordinance is preparing other titles which will face the same problems.  Aki Sora, Oku-sama wa Shōgakusei, Lovers & Sharing, Koibito 8-gō, Hana-Hiyori, and Midori no Kisetsu, are the first to feel the act of this bill.

The final consequences remain unknown but with the closeness of other prefectures it is clear that nothing is what it seems.

It is also clear that this problem will be brought up again in the new future and much depends on the determination of people against the bill because the policing of this new bill will not be easy given the reality of mass communications and the sheer size of Tokyo

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

Source of main photo from http://www.costume-designer.info/page/4

 

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2011 in Japan

 

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Shinjuku: vibrant architecture, exquisite department stores and lovely gardens

Shinjuku: vibrant architecture, exquisite department stores and lovely gardens

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The ultra-modern Skyscrapers in Shinjuku are a stark reminder of the economic power that emerged in Japan from the 1960s onwards until the bubble economy of the last twenty years.  However, in Tokyo it is hard to imagine that Japan’s economy keeps on going from small economic growth to stagnation and back to minor growth.

Therefore, when you arrive in Tokyo or if you are a Tokyoite it is abundantly clear that this city is dynamic and the environment is based on modernity, high octane shopping and despite the huge numbers of people the city keeps on ticking.

Amidst all the modernization are gems which remind you of the past and this is especially applicable to architecture, Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples.  Also, the stunning gardens are often linked to a rich history because each exquisite garden will have its own history and special factor behind the refined layout.

The huge skyscrapers in Shinjuku are amazing and the ultra-modern architecture is visually pleasing.  When I first visited Shinjuku I could imagine Blade Runner and this part of Tokyo made London and Manchester seem miniscule when it came to power and size.

Also, the shopping complexes are huge and you have many top notch fashion companies and department stores and the quality is exquisite in the upmarket part of Shinjuku.  Therefore, each different department store must compete and create its own image because the market is very competitive and the changing nature of fashion, thinking and lifestyles, means that department stores need to stay a few steps ahead.

Major department stores in Shinjuku and Nishi Shinjuku include Isetan, Keio, Lumine, Marui, Mitsukoshi ALCOTT, Odakyu, Takashimaya and Mylord.  Each department store provides quality of the highest and the service is second to none in the world and Japan is famous for this.  Therefore, you are certainly spoilt for choice in Shinjuku if you like exquisite shopping and of course you have so many different styles of shops and the area changes quickly and caters for a huge variety of goods.

It is unfair to pick any one individual company because they all have a wide selection of brands and I am more familiar with Lumine but also visit Odakyu and Keio often and my visit to Takashimaya was very pleasurable.  Also, I know that Isetan is widely liked throughout Japan and Mitsukoshi, despite setbacks in Ikebukuro after closing their store, is very different in places like Shinjuku, Nihonbashi and Ebisu. In truth, Ikebukuro clashed too much with the nature of Mitsukoshi and this department store is vibrant in Shinjuku. 

The Mylord complex is also a great place to relax and it is affiliated with Odakyu and during my early time in Tokyo it was my main place for hanging out in Shinjuku.

Marui One will appeal to fashion lovers because of the sheer diverse nature of this department store which caters for a whole spectrum of fashion.  This applies to catering for Tokyo fashion, fantasy fashion, modern kimono, princess fashion, casual styles, romantic designs, unique styles, Visual kei, Gothic, Lolita and dreamy fashion. 

Shinjuku train station is the busiest in the world and clearly you can imagine from this fact alone that central areas are awash with people.  Therefore, Shinjuku Gyoen is a welcome place to visit in order to escape the madding crowds, to take a welcome break from shopping or to visit only this part of Shinjuku. After all, the gardens are extremely beautiful and varied within Shinjuku Gyoen and I often just visit the gardens and have a quiet coffee and then return to more sedate parts of Tokyo.

Shinjuku Gyoen in history was an imperial garden but this changed after World War Two and it became a national garden with pre-eminence in Tokyo because of its prime location and the garden size is very large.

Within Shinjuku Gyoen you have three diverse styles and this applies to English landscape, French formal and traditional Japanese.  These distinct styles mix delightfully and the traditional Japanese tea house is an elegant feature within the gardens.

The whole park is a great place to relax and witness many stunning views and the ponds express the natural beauty in more detail.  Also, the three different garden styles mingle well within the whole complex and the pond areas are delightful and will lift up the spirits of all who view the natural beauty on display. 

The sheer size of Shinjuku Gyoen also means that you have many quiet areas and you can block out all the stresses of life.  Or if life is already going great then you will feel even better because you can spend hours by yourself or with friends and just enjoy your special day in such sublime and lovely surroundings. 

Overall, Shinjuku is full of energy and for tourists it is a must place to visit and the nightlife is very vibrant.

 

http://www.env.go.jp/garden/shinjukugyoen/english/index.html Shinjuku Gyoen

http://tokyofashion.com/photos/?location=Shinjuku Fashion photos 

http://maruione.jp/en/ Marui Online Shop

http://www.takashimaya.co.jp/shinjuku/store_information/ Takashimaya

http://info.keionet.com/foreign/index.html Keio Department Store

http://www.odakyu.jp/english/sightsee/shinjuku/index.html Odakyu Department Store and Tourist Information

http://www.lumine.ne.jp/shinjuku/ Lumine 

http://www.shinjuku-mylord.com/ Mylord

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3011.html   Information about Shinjuku

http://www.isetan.co.jp/icm2/jsp/store/shinjuku/info/iclub/index.jsp Isetan

http://moderntokyotimes.com (please visit)

 
 
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Posted by on June 14, 2011 in Japan

 

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